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Paccekabuddha: a Buddhist Ascetic

Paccekabuddha: a Buddhist Ascetic

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A discussion of the Solitary Buddha, who does not teach the Dhamma. By Ria Kloppenborg. Wheel Publication No. 305.
A discussion of the Solitary Buddha, who does not teach the Dhamma. By Ria Kloppenborg. Wheel Publication No. 305.

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Published by: Buddhist Publication Society on Jan 06, 2012
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01/29/2014

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The Majjhima Nikāya (M III 69–71) enumerates 119 names of a group of five hundred
Paccekabuddhas who are said to reside on Mount Isigili. Of these names only a few are
mentioned in Pāli texts elsewhere: the most important ones are Tagarasikhin, Upariṭṭha,
Mātaṅga and Mahāpaduma. The Paccekabuddha Upariṭṭha occurs in a story in the
Manorathapurāṇī where he plays a role in one of the previous existences of the Buddha’s cousin
Anuruddha, who, as the poor Annabhāra, presents him with alms. “Then one day on Mount
Gandhamādana, the Paccekabuddha named Upariṭṭha, having entered the attainment of
suppression (nirodhasamāpatti), came out of this (meditation) and reflected: ’To whom ought
compassion be shown today?’ For Paccekabuddhas are compassionate towards those who have
entered a bad form of existence.” Having chosen Annabhāra as a suitable object for his
compassion, he went to him to receive alms. Then Annabhāra filled the Paccekabuddha’s bowl
with his own meal and presented him with it, expressing the wish to be released from his
miserable existence, and he then made the Paccekabuddha sit down upon his own cloak to eat
(A-a I 185).

The same text mentions the Paccekabuddha Mahāpaduma, the first of the five hundred
Paccekabuddhas who are the sons of Padumavatī. He is the only one who is said to have been
born from her womb, the others having been born from moisture. He is the first of the group to
enter Nibbāna.

Tagarasikhin is the most frequently mentioned Paccekabuddha. He is the third son of
Padumavatī and lives on Mount Gandhamādana ”in the happiness resulting from the
attainment of the fruit.” Tagarasikhin is mentioned in the Udāna, where he is insulted by the
son of the wealthy merchant, named Suppabuddha, who called him a leper. As a result of this
offence Suppabuddha was reborn in hell and remained there for many hundreds of thousands
of years, after which he obtained a human existence as a leper. In one of the Jātakas
Tagarasikhin figures in a story in which he receives a gift from an unbeliever, who regrets his
generosity afterwards.

Padumavatī, the mother of the five hundred Paccekabuddhas, is regarded as a previous
incarnation of the nun Uppalavaṇṇā. How she acquired the merit which enabled her to attain
this state is explained in the following fragment from the Manoratha-pūraṇī (A-a I 346): “At that
time one Paccekabuddha, having come out of the attainment of suppression on Mount
Gandhamādana went to a place not far from where she was and stood (there). Having seen the
Paccekabuddha, she took fried grain and a lotus-flower, came down from her car, and threw the
fried grain into the Paccekabuddha’s bowl. Having covered the bowl with the lotus-flower, she
gave (it to him). Shortly after the Paccekabuddha had left she thought; ’Those who have entered
upon religious life have no need of a flower; I shall adorn myself with the flower.’ She went (to
him) and took the flower (back) from the Paccekabuddha’s hand, but then she thought: ’If the
Lord should not have needed the flower, he would not have allowed (it) to lie on top of the
bowl. Surely he has need of it!’ And again going to him, she laid it on top of the bowl,
apologised to him and expressed this wish: ’Reverend Sir, as a result of (the presenting of) these
grains may I have as many sons as the number of the grains; may a lotus-flower arise from each
(of my) footprints every place where I shall be reborn as a result of (the presenting of) the lotus-
flower.’ (Then) before her very eyes the Paccekabuddha went through the air to the

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Gandhamādana. Having made a foot-wiper flower for the (other) Paccekabuddhas, he placed
himself near the stairs of approaching. As a result of her deed, the woman came to rebirth in the
world of the gods. From the time (of this) existence onwards a big lotus-flower grew out of each
of her footprints.”

In the Apadāna she commemorates her good deed in two verses: “Having seen the
Paccekabuddha and having presented him with five hundred fried grains covered with lotuses,
I wished for five hundred sons. Having given honey in these lonely places to the self-existent
one, I passed from (that existence) and was born in a forest in the interior of a lotus” (Ap II 555,
verses 56–57).

The Paccekabuddha Sunetta is mentioned in the Petavatthu Commentary, where it is related
how he was murdered while meditating on the bank of the Ganges. Another Paccekabuddha,
whose death had been violent, is mentioned in the Jātaka, where it is related that he was shot
with an arrow as a result of being mistaken for a deer in the forest.

The Paccekabuddha Mātaṅga, the last of the Paccekabuddhas who lived before the
Bodhisattva entered his last existence, received the announcement of this and entered final
Nibbāna.

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